This year I am trying to reread some classic that I didn’t appreciate when I was younger. The Picture of Dorian Gray is a perfect example because I became obsessed with the Ben Barnes film when it came out in 2009. Sorry Readers I have just realised it's a bit of a Ben Barnes fan girl week. But back in 2009 I did try and read the book, but I just didn’t get into it. I was also only 16 so I’m going to blame my age. I was scrolling through audible back in January, and I saw that there was an audible exclusive version of The Picture of Dorian Gray narrated by Russell Tovey and I thought why not.
Looking at the reviews that have been left on audible I think I am in a small minority of people who loved Russell being the narrator. At no point did the audiobook feel like it was dragging along, and I was shocked to realised that the audiobook was 8 and a half hours long. For me I think Russell captures everyone’s voices without being overly dramatic and abrasive and I think he gets the balance just right. Russell even adds a sense of necessary seediness in a way you feel Dorian's corruption and moral downfall. Russell’s reading is excellent throughout, although there are a few moments of jarring edits but that’s the fault of production.
One thing I will say is I have been corrupted by the modern portrayals of Dorian Gray from Stuart Townsend in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003), Ben Barnes in The Picture of Dorian Gray (2009) and Reeve Carney in Penny Dreadful (2014-2016). The book wasn't as horrifying as I expected it to be. I think I have been desensitised dear Reader I thought this book was going to at least spooky me for a couple of nights but here we are. That being said to me this Dorian was completely different to anything I have seen on screen, he was slightly more intriguing, and I loved watching the way he reacted to situations. Finally seeing book Dorian made me have an entirely different insight.
The other characters were intriguing as Lord Henry is shown as the bad influence while Basil is the voice of reason. The real-life counterparts to the angel and devil sitting on your shoulder. The story of Dorian Gray shows us the darkest parts of human nature: narcissism, depravity, and greed, without any thought of who might be harmed in the pursuit of pleasure. No matter how much of a good person you think you are would you look at your Dorian Gray painting? If you knew every choice you ever made would become a physical manifestation on a painting, would you look?
One thing thought out this book that destroyed me a little. I know it was the attitudes of the time and what Oscar Wilde lived through but having to hide who you're in love with someone is awful. Also, the potential to get tossed in prison and ostracised from society and having your life ruined because people think it's wrong is a whole other level of horrible. It should be something that has been lost to history not something that is still a thing in 2023.